More than 1,000 former part-time soldiers in Northern Ireland have been awarded compensation of almost £7 million in a landmark industrial tribunal settlement, it was revealed last night.
They are all ex-members of the Royal Irish Regiment who took a case against the Ministry of Defence claiming their contractual entitlements were less favourable than those granted to the regiment's full-timers.
The distribution of payments totalling £6.7m is expected to get under way early next week.
The payouts vary between £1,500 and £50,000 depending on the lengths of service and other factors.
Almost 1,100 men are believed to have been involved in the legal action. Ernie Telford, senior partner with Belfast law firm McCartan Turkington Breen, who was heavily involved in negotiating the settlement, said: “It is a unique case and all the claimants are entirely satisfied with the outcome.”
The case has been running for eight years when claims were first lodged under the provisions of the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (Northern Ireland), involving disparities between rates of pay and other benefits including sick leave and holiday entitlements. It covered a period between July 2000 until the disbandment of the part-time element of home service battalions at the end of March 2007.
The RIR was formed in July 1992 with the merging of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Rangers.
The compensation terms were agreed by treasury solicitors acting on behalf of the MoD and the soldiers' legal representatives without the need for the case to go to hearing before an industrial tribunal in Belfast.
The settlement is the largest of its kind reached in an industrial tribunal process in Northern Ireland.